Bird GuideGrebesLeast Grebe

At a Glance

A tiny diver of the American tropics, entering our area mainly in southern Texas. Seems to fly more readily than most grebes, and may colonize temporary ponds or flooded areas shortly after they form. Often seen swimming and diving on small ponds or ditches in pursuit of aquatic insects, its main food. Sometimes the Least Grebe hides in dense marshes, where its presence may be revealed by metallic trilling calls, often given as a duet by members of a mated pair.
Duck-like Birds, Grebes
Low Concern
Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Not truly migratory, but moves around considerably, sometimes appearing quickly on newly-formed ponds. Has strayed north to California, Arizona, and Louisiana. Has colonized many islands in Caribbean, and strays from Caribbean have reached Florida. Movements are probably mostly at night.


8-10" (20-25 cm). Smaller than Pied-billed Grebe, dark, gray-faced, with small thin bill and bright yellow eyes. Throat blackish in breeding plumage. Some Eared Grebes in winter plumage are quite dark and may have yellow eyes.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Brown, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape

Songs and Calls

Loud peek! and other calls.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Rattle, Trill


Ponds, marshes. In Texas usually on shallow freshwater ponds and ditches, either fairly open or with heavy marsh vegetation. Often appears on small temporary ponds after rainy periods. In tropics, also on brackish marshes, lakes, slow-moving rivers, mangrove swamps.



4-6, rarely 3-7. Whitish to very pale blue-green, becoming stained in nest. Incubation (by both sexes) about 21 days.


Can swim soon after hatching. Small young often ride on parents' backs; fed by both parents. Young may return to nest for sleeping and resting during first 2 weeks after hatching. Age at first flight not known. May raise 2-3 broods per year (possibly more in tropics).

Feeding Behavior

Forages in several ways. Dives and swims underwater in pursuit of prey, captures insects on and above surface of water or takes them from waterside vegetation. May catch flying dragonflies by approaching them underwater and then erupting from beneath water's surface to snatch them from the air.


Mostly insects. Feeds on wide variety of insects, including aquatic beetles, waterbugs, dragonfly larvae and adults, and others. Also small crustaceans, spiders, tadpoles, small fish.


In Texas, breeds mainly spring and summer, sometimes at other seasons; nests year-round in the tropics. Courtship displays not well known, may include pair rising to upright position and gliding rapidly across surface of water. Nest: Site is in shallow water, usually 1-3' deep. Nest (built by both sexes) is a mass of decaying vegetation, either floating or resting on bottom, anchored to aquatic plants. Same nest often re-used for subsequent broods.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers vary in limited range in United States. Many may be killed by exceptionally cold winters in Texas.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Least Grebe. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Least Grebe

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.